Who would want to live in a fish bowl and have all of your actions remembered for a later date to be used against you? In other words who would want to work in student development for the rest of their life? I do.
As an RA our actions are dissected and examined for the tiniest little fault. How many of you have heard, “you look so drunk” from a resident when you are just tired from being up all night dealing with a situation? Most of you probably have, because that is the nature of our job. Why would I want to pursue this lifestyle as a career? The benefits greatly out-weigh the scrutiny. Yes, I said lifestyle. In my opinion a great RA makes the job a lifestyle. Not only have I made it my lifestyle, I plan on making it my career.
I was a sophomore at Appalachian Sate University trying to decide what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. I started my job as an RA with very few expectations. I expected it to be a “cake-job” with a parking space on campus and some pocket money. I was wrong. My RD is a man with very high expectations, and for some reason he thought I could do a lot with my job. I did not realize all of the extras that came with the position, for example, duty. I am the person called at 3:00am because someone forgot his or her keys. I was surprised at how bored I could get in the three hours of sitting “in the box”, and being “on duty” from 7:00pm to 7:00am. It really killed my social life, so I thought. Who knew that every little action that even looked like you were out of line would be brought up? I hated my job at first. I woke ready to quit for a month. I came back from Christmas break with a different outlook on my job and my life. It is amazing how the two coincide so much.
When I came back from break I started to notice all of the great things that this job has to offer. The feeling of helping someone through a hard situation is very rewarding. Coming into the job and while going through training, another story all together, I thought to myself, guys will never come to me with personal problems. To my surprise they did and they trusted me. That was very encouraging for me. It made me want to do the best I could. I knew that it was becoming a lifestyle when I started to lose sleep over issues that I had discussed with my guys. I gained a lot of respect from the guys by making them call me by my nickname “NoLegzz”. I get the nickname from the fact that I am a double amputee. It made the guys feel like that could ask me questions about my legs, and in doing that I opened up to them and in turn they opened up to me. The most rewarding part of the job so far has been being able to see some of the guy’s progress. It is very rewarding to see that you have helped.
I had never even considered going into student development as a career until I came back from summer break. It was the night before the new freshmen moved into the hall. It hit me, how much I loved the things involved with this job. I was absolutely exhausted from doing room conditions reports, door decorations, lobby decorations, bulletin boards, setting up the stations for move in, and just trying to make everything perfect. We had been in training all week from 8:00am to about 9:00 or 10:00pm every night, then staff development activities and then trying to get all of my paper work finished. It made for little sleep that week. As exhausted as I was I was still excited about the freshmen coming in less than five hours. I woke up with more energy than I had had all week. It was great.
All of my life I had wanted to teach. Both of my parents are teachers, so it was in my blood. When I was in high school I wanted to teach high school and coach wrestling which was my entire life in high school. I did not want to teach young children, because I knew that for me to be an effective teacher I would have to be able to relate to my students. When I came to college I has aspirations of going to Medical school. Chemistry 2 persuaded me differently. I then went through four other majors until I settled on a business degree. I was not sure what I wanted to do with a business degree, but knew I could get a job with it. I then realized how much “teaching” is done in student development. I had found a job that I loved and could do for the rest of my life.
As I stated earlier, my boss has very high expectations for his staff. They are not so high that they cannot be reached, but the do pull you out of your zone of comfort. This, I have found is absolutely necessary for growth. Without his help and guidance I probably would not be in the same situation with my life and job as I am now. Watching him work with students is very inspiring. He has a gift, and is able to have an “educational moment” without the resident even knowing. At times when we’re just chatting with a resident, I just sit back and watch him work. It makes me want to be able to help people the way that he does. He has a way of getting through to the most stubborn people without them knowing.
Since this is my second year, he now holds me to a higher set of expectations. Many people would not like that sort of thing. I see it as a challenge. I may not be doing so well at times, and we will have a one-on-one and I find myself motivated to do my best. Many bosses will just tell you that you are not performing at a peak level, and that you need to change, and end the discussion. He does not. He lets you know what he thinks is going on, and then helps you work out a plan of action to get back on track. He makes the job look so easy, but I know it is not. He makes me want to do the best I can.
Then there is Brian, a fellow staff member. We call him “Super RA” for a reason. This guy does more in one day than most could think about doing in a month. For example his week consists of about 12 meetings and usually a couple of programs or presentations. All are centered on community service. Through the two years I have know Brian we have become very close. Brian is the kind of guy your mom hopes you make friends with. A positive influence. Brian has the innate ability to make people open up to him just like my boss does. Brian is also going into student development.
Seeing the good that can be done by one person has led me to this calling. I say calling because if you are not called to do this kind of job then it will make you miserable. Brian has shown me how much can be done. I have taken his lead and done more in this past year than I have almost all of my life, and I just want to keep doing things to help others.
Individuals who I have worked with have inspired me in significant ways and influenced me. With all of these forces working in conjunction I feel that I have found my calling. I just attended the RA drive-in conference at UNCW and I realized how much I love the spirit and unity of people who work in this field at all levels.
Student development is a wonderful way to help others and to keep involved in the educational process without having to be in a classroom.
Submitted by Mathew Hall, Resident Assistant, Appalachian State University